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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-11021: Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 31 August 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to Reform Scotland’s recent publication, Reforming Prison, and its recommendations to stop the use of short prison sentences of less than six months and to introduce a pilot scheme for putting landline phones in prisoners’ cells.

Answered by: Michael Matheson 21 September 2017

In the Programme for Government published on 5 September 2017 the Scottish Government committed to extend the legislative presumption against short periods of imprisonment from 3 months to 12 months. Extending the presumption sends a clear signal that short sentences should only be imposed where no other alternatives are suitable, and is part of our wider commitment to shift the emphasis from ineffective short-term imprisonment to greater use of robust community sentences.

Ultimately, sentencing decisions should and do remain a matter for the courts. The presumption is not a ban, and courts retain the discretion to pass the most appropriate sentence based on the facts and circumstances of the case they are dealing with.

There are no current plans to introduce telephones in prisoners' cells in Scotland. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service both recognise the importance of individuals maintaining family links during their time in custody, and continue to look at ways in which we can support and enhance this.